Spring is sprung. Or at least, so those in more temperate climes advise me. I received my first daffodils in mid-February via the modern medium of WhatsApp, and thoughts of floral drinks “sprang” to mind.
“The earth laughs in flowers,” as Emerson said, and they’re also a fantastically varied ingredient for mixing drinks — or cooking for that matter. Most of the time we find flowers in cocktails in just a few ingredients — the perfumed aromas of elderflower, violette (violet liqueur), rose water or orange blossom water all have their place on a traditional back bar — but there are many more ways to incorporate a floral aspect to your drinks.
You can make your own infusion into a liqueur or a syrup simply by weighing out a few grams of the dried petals of your favourite bloom, steeping it in spirits for a liqueur or water for a syrup.
For either, first make an infusion using warm liquid rather than hot, as too much heat tends to break down delicate fragrant compounds, as well as over-extract bitter ingredients like chlorophyll. Once you can detect a marked extraction of flavour — you are essentially making tea at this point — you can strain it and add sugar to taste. This could be minutes (beware the fantastically fast infusion of lavender!) or days for more subtle flowers. Then, to make the syrup, mixing one part sugar with one part infusion works well and should last a month or so in the fridge.
For a liqueur, using about one part sugar to one part water and two parts infusion should keep the alcohol in check and keep the flavour, although you can leave it as a floral spirit — dandelion vodka, anyone?
Much like tea, there is no rule about how strong, weak, sweet or what flowers to use, so work to your tastes.
Once you have a floral syrup or liqueur, what to do with it is entirely up to you.
You can add a small amount of the liqueur or syrup to a Champagne glass with a touch of lemon and bubbles for an elegant pre-dinner aperitif. Or you could incorporate floral syrups or liqueurs into a gin and tonic for garden parties or a refreshing after-work convivial. You can garnish either drink with a fresh petal from the relevant blossom for a visual and olfactory extra touch.
Most classics can be made floral with the substitution or addition of a floral liqueur, spirit or syrup. A "margarita," "white lady," or "sidecar" can swap or add to the orange liqueur, whereas a martini or "old fashioned" will love a florally-infused vermouth or floral syrup respectively.
A word to the wise about using floral ingredients: Less is more. Floral aromas can easily become overwhelming with a heavy splash or extra dash of floral flavour.
Jim Wrigley is the beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.
This article appears in print in the March 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times.